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I traveled to Lagos one weekend, and my head did an immediate switch; happy to have malls, ice-cream, and pizza within thought distances. Then I returned to Abeokuta and the first thing I noticed was a strike by members of the Union of Road Transport Workers. The cause of the strike: an over hundred percent increase in taxation had been placed by the State Government. That, in a city where passengers perennially haggle for the lowest fares conceivable, and some plead to pay twenty naira for some distances! It was simply impossible. A deliberate act of cruelty which could neither be allowed nor accepted. For a minute I stood at the garage and just stared at people walking down the long road; a vision of colours, luggaged backs, and stretching legs.

At the bus-stop, there were some parked cabs. There were also men beside them occasionally in conversation with people as they walked. The people often walked past them shortly after. On rare occasions, the people got into the cab. I guessed that some few routes were bereft of protesting Union staff; hence safe for cab drivers to ply. Hoping my route was among the ‘safe’ ones, I took contemplative steps towards them.

“One-fifty ni”

“Shey nitori strike? Sebi awon egbe yin naa l’on fa wahala? Ibo ni k’a ti ri? Ko ni da fuun yin. Ebi l’o ma pa yin ku. Shey thirty naira ori e yen lo ma je ke la? Oloriburuku oko asewo…*”

I felt my jaw fall, but couldn’t lock it back. A woman had gotten to the cabman I’d heard calling destinations along my route just before me. And she was cussing him out because of a thirty naira increase in the fare.

Is she bloody joking?

My mind couldn’t grasp it. I had mentally prepared to pay a hundred percent increase in the fare, and she was going crazy over a less than fifty percent increase. When the financial risk he ran for operating at a time his union members were protesting was –at the least– over ten times the fare he was requesting. I was shocked!

You see enh, in Lagos: when anything happens to cause a driver any inconvenience -whether or not there’s a risk attached to it- passengers compensate with higher fares. Rain falls; you pay for the inconvenience of his being on the road, instead of cuddling in bed with his wife. At rush hour, you pay for the ribald tales, pepper soup, and bobbing, laughing stomach which should have been his at any of the many bars sprawled all over the city; if he hadn’t been driving you. On any random day, you pay extra if you’re too impatient to wait for another vehicle, and he needs money to make up his children’s school fees… or give his woman for that fashion accessory all her friends want/have…. The list is maybe endless.

While the woman’s tirade and my thoughts debated, I slipped into the cab. The people already in the cab were divided; some empathized with the driver, others lamented the increase. I looked at them closely; then smiled. The ‘lamenters’ had tribal marks that proclaimed them from Abeokuta; while the others bore travelling bags, and soon began to speak of other cities.

Aah, I thought, case dismissed.

*Translation:

“Is it because of the strike? Isn’t it your colleagues who are causing the trouble? From where do you expect me to find the fare you request? It would not be good for you. It is hunger that would kill you. Is it the thirty naira increase that would make you successful? A no-good person, husband of a prostitute…”

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Of Souls and Shadows

I’m sitting here

In the middle of this debris

Of blood and jagged muscles

Pulsing the beat of the drunk man’s trudge

The demons race

Debating pain and hurt

Whispering dreams and hopes

Madness tethers on this unspeaking frenzy

 

Your eyes tell that story

Of empty bottles and drowned soul

Mine speak primitive tongues

Of broken groans and rising throes

Don’t say tomorrow

That pregnant dream reminiscent of nightmares

No. Don’t shed light

It casts shadows too

 

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Body Diary: Between Me and Hungry Me

11:32 a.m
Hungry me: “We need food”
Me: “I had breakfast”
*Stretches left hand into bag to fetch bananas*
 
12:59 p.m
Hungry me: “Hungry. Again.”
Me: “I just fed you”
Hungry me: “Two bananas. Two. Bloody. Bananas!”
Me: “Shouting is rude. Especially in someone’s head.”
*pauses*
“No food. Go learn some manners.”
Hungry me: “Thunder fire you!”
 
13:24hrs
Hungry me: “Stomach is biting. Foood”
Me: “Nah; would ruin vibe. Music and report are dope right now”
 
13:40hrs
Hungry me: “What’s the thing you have against belching and co in public?”
Me: “Image management. Those are rude. Not ‘me’”
Hungry me: “Okay. You should skip the next song.”
Me: “Why?”
Hungry me: “R. Kelly croons licking the middle of orioles in it”
Me: “But that’s not what the lyrics really mean. It’s metaphor for…”
Hungry me: *cuts in*
“R.Kelly is responsible for what he says. I for what I understand.”
Me: *face falls*
“That’s my best song on the album”
Hungry me: “If that song plays, I’m going to purr.”
Me: “I’m at work. An office. With other people.”
Hungry me: “Low. Sexy. Hungry. Rumble. Purr.”
Me: *frowns; thoughtful* Why’s that causing tingles down my spine? *bites lower lip*
“I’ve given my life to Jesus.”
Hungry me: “Hunh hunh.”
Me: *Gets up to get food*
#Blackmail #BodyDiary #Hunger #Worktales
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Humans of Abeokuta: Episode 3

Abeokuta is an ancient town. It’s people live by ancient ways. This means they adhere to ways of life indoctrinated by their forebears; including food and drink. I used to think its status as a State capital, and location between Lagos and Oyo States would have influenced it someway. You know, introduced the love of junk food and luxury beverages. I was wrong. And the discovery of only 2 standard shawarma spots should told me so. But it didn’t.

Time was 8:45 a.m yesterday, and I was at a residential training. I had strolled to the breakfast table was heavy feet and eyes; the effect of catching sleep in brief glimpses of shut eyes and quiet mind. My words slurred when I greeted “good morning”; heavy, thick, and seductive, with some unintended bedroom huskiness. A hand paused midair. Oil gathered at the base of the scooping spoon.

“Plop. Plop”

The sound of oil dropping on stew in the warmer sounded like the tick of my wristwatch.

It is loud. Too loud. Louder than it should be.

The words seeped slowly through my subconscious; cautious, as if not to jar me. The tiptoe of the hungover. Light dimmed, my eyes squinted to focus on the face of the person holding the scooping spoon. It was my colleague. Mouth agape, adam’s apple bobbing like one repeatedly swallowing spittle or strugglng for words; he looked lost. Something nudged at my consciousness; a persistent knock seeking attention. There had been a subliminal message in the initial thought.

If the drop of oil sounded too loud, then the room was too quiet.

The room hadn’t been quiet when I walked in; brief seconds ago. Curious, I looked round the room. There were colleagues with forks halfway to their lips, and some with hands idly twirling spoons in mugs. They were all watching me. Puzzled, I lifted a brow; a low shift of my face to ask a question. That seemed to break the jinx. Laughter, hushed comments…

“Did someone keep you awake all night?”

A voice, filled with laughter and teasing. I shook my head, jesting acknowledgement of the thought that raised the question.

“Your voice is strange this morning. Like you’re still asleep. And coffee’s been exhausted.”

Coffee…exhausted.

That was all I heard. While my head questioned how coffee could finish, my feet led the way to my room. Once there, I fetched my wallet. It was not the kind of day to broach without coffee.

Fifteen minutes and eight shops -5 of which were still locked- later, I was still without coffee.

Who doesn’t stock coffee?

How does someone sell these chocolate beverages but not coffee?

Do people in this area live coffee-less?

Why are some shops locked?

Who knows if the locked shops have coffee in them? Can I check?

Is breaking-and-entering still a crime?

Unanswered questions racing through my mind; disbelieving my coffeelessness. How could neighbourhood shops be locked at almost 9 a.m? Why would anyone have a beverage shop and not stock coffee?

Desperation awoke my basic survival instinct. I recalled the back-up sachet coffee lying peacefully in my purse; untouched for almost 6 months. Feet lighter, I strode purposefully back to the hotel. Splinters of memory replayed in my mind. The attendants in the 3 shops which had been open. Two of them had gone blank, asking what coffee was. The third had raised eyebrows, examined me up and down like one who’d just discovered an alien, and asked:

T’anin mu Nescaafu?

Translated: “Who drinks coffee?”

 

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Body Diary: Insomniac Tales

Midnight

*Dupe looks at wristwatch. Thinks:* I should maybe sleep. But there’s power. And internet. And music. Sleep… *Ponders the attractions of sleep. Thinks:* There’s no reason to sleep

02:34 a.m

*laptop beeps, a message from a contact.*

Contact:         “When exactly do you sleep?”

Dupe:              “When the spirit requests”

*Thinks:* Dang! Time’s really gone. I should sleep.

04:09 a.m

*Phone beeps, messages from Sir Beau*

Sir Beau:              “I know you’re not awake.”

“You know you’re not awake. ”

“I’ve slept and woken. We both know you better not be awake”

Dupe:                    “Maybe I’ve slept too”

Sir Beau:              “You posted on fb 2 hours ago. And Twitter says you’ve been serial tweeting. So when exactly did your ‘sleep’ happen?”

Dupe:                    “*jaw drop smiley* I said ‘maybe’ na”

Sir Beau:              “Why the hell are you still up?”

Dupe:                    “Maybe I’m too cold to sleep. And maybe that’s your fault for leaving a girl sans cuddles in this cold weather”

Sir Beau:              “And that’s how someone can’t take you vacationing in winter. Cuddle Kong*”

“Seriously tho’, go to bed Girl. Now.”

Dupe:                    “Aye”

*switches off phone’s mobile data, and disconnects wingle from laptop. Mumbles to self*

“There are haters in this life. Stalking lover haters.

*Eyes start start to ache. Dupe yawns, glances at Kong*

Dupe:                    “We can sleep now. What say you? Ready for bed?”

*Lifts Kong for some scary dance he doesn’t seem to favour much. Switches off lights, shuts down laptop, cuddles Kong, and lays head on pillow*

*Ring Ring. Ring Ring. Ring Ring*

*Dupe picks phone. Screen says ‘6:00 a.m Get up Lazy’. *

Dupe:                    “Y’an joking.”

*Shuts off alarm. Puts head back to pillow, cuddles Kong closer. Then, from just outside the window:*

“Kukuruuku!”

*Opens eyes. Thinks:* But won’t this cock die? Who did I offend, enh? I just want to rest eyes small. Abi what’s all this?

“Kukuruuku! Kukuruuku!! Kukur…”

*Dupe gets out of bed; tears clogging her throat as she looks at the barely creased sheets. Goes to make coffee*

P.S:

Kong* is Dupe’s amiable teddy.

 

 

 

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Luxury

via Daily Prompt: Luxury

It was the sixties. Women had to compete with other women -wives and concubines- for their husband’s attention, affection, giving hand, and thrusting penis. Same women also had to always be on their best behaviour around in-laws; and in-laws were always around. In addition, they had to be the epitome of commerce, selflessness, servitude, silence, long-suffering, and humility -Christs par excellence- to the community. Perhaps most of all, they had to raise sterling children: a female whose promising cherry ensnared a man from a reputable family, and a male whose fabled prowess, money, or good looks had all the girls competing to win his marriage proposal.

It was the sixties. A mother’s success rode almost exclusively on the back of her children’s perceived satisfaction of societal expectations and standards.  Then, there were some boys who often went out spotless but returned dirty and sometimes bloodied. They never got home before the sun went to sleep, usually were too tired to participate meaningfully in chores, got their siblings into trouble, caused the vexation of their fathers, and brought shame and ridicule upon their mothers. Mothers with such boys usually kept vigil with the cold space on their mat; examining their minds for the list of wrongs they had done, wondering which could have caused someone such offence as to curse them with such fate. Often they begged the son, and his ‘head’, to have mercy on them.

“You have made me the jest of everyone. Neighbours and peers mock me. Your father’s other wives are turning him against me. Quit your bad habit, save me from shame.”

They would cry, plead, call on the breasts he suckled in blackmail; their ultimate weapon to demand obedience.

It was the sixties. Footballers were rascals; everyone knew. They went out clean and returned dirty, sometimes bloodied. They cursed the wombs that bore them, dishonoured the breasts that suckled them, and were deaf to the voices that crooned them lullabies at infancy. They were also disreputable. Girls -intoxicated by victory or the exhibit of masculinity in primitive frames of guts and glory- sometimes offered their cherry to footballers who thought them a prize, and made trophies of them. Inevitably, footballers were envied, hated, and respected by fellow males who had neither human nor sculpted trophies. My father liked to play football. And he was good at it. His team would hardly ever play without him, his name was known in all the neighbouring towns, and the girls either hated or loved him. He was a “rascal”.

It was the sixties. Luxury, as my father tells, was returning home to elder sisters who had done his chores and hidden away some meal for him. It was playing football in the rain confidently; knowing his brother always had eyes on him, and was ready to put him on his back and race to the clinic if he had another crisis of pneumonia. It was never being afraid of the many males who ambushed him because he had elder brothers and cousins everyone knew better than to mess with. It was a father who always gave him a cone of ice-cream bought from big cities –away from the reprimanding eyes of his mother- and beamed eyes full of pride when his team won. It was a mother who swaddled him in her fanciest heaviest wrappers, while she watched the night and prayed for him to live through the cold.

It is twenty-sixteen. Luxury would be reading this to my father and laughing as he throws cute insults, swears words, and threatens me in a mix of disbelief, dismay, awe, and adoration.